Why? Because the only way the Owls were going to stop the Herd's running game was by recovering a freak fumble. The Owls scored one valiant three-and-out during their 11-point rally, but I'm chalking it up to a tentative, conservative series by the Herd offense. (In other words, playing not to lose.)
But overall, Rice's tackling deteriorated as the game wore on. In the two overtimes, the Owls got rag-dolled in the trenches. After the Herd denied two TD passes - excellent coverage by Monterius Lovett and then a big hit by Okechukwu Okoroha - the Owls had to settle for a field goal.
It was Rice's first lead, 51-48, but you knew the home team was toast. And the Owls were toasted in their own Houston heat.
One hopes the Herd gave Miday the game ball. That, my friends, was some good coaching.
In most years since 2005, Conference USA has been superior to the Mid-American Conference. This is not one of those seasons.
Last weekend, the MAC took all sorts of scalps - Central Michigan beat Iowa 32-31, Western Michigan rode Connecticut out of Kalamazoo 30-24, Northern Illinois dropped Kansas 30-23 and Ball State sent Skip Holtz's South Florida team home a 31-27 loser.
If memory serves, I don't remember such MAC-inflicted carnage since that special day of September 20, 2003, when Marshall beat sixth-ranked Kansas State, NIU toppled Alabama and Toledo downed Pittsburgh. And Bowling Green threw a scare into Ohio State.
So on the latest Saturday, the MAC racked up four wins over BCS-level opponents, quadruple the one C-USA has managed - those Rice Owls kicking over Kansas. (Charlie Weis, how is life treating you in Lawrence?)
C-USA is going to have to claim 2013 newcomer Louisiana Tech for its brownie points. If you missed it, the Bulldogs administered corporal punishment in Champaign, Ill., beating Illinois 52-24. The Fighting Illness had six turnovers and was outgained 403-324.
Looking way down the road, we saw a hint of what Old Dominion likes to do offensively - throw for 700-plus yards. Taylor Heinicke threw for 730 yards in a 64-61 win over New Hampshire, breaking the 22-year-old Division I record by Houston's David Klingler. That game did not go to overtime, either.
Heinicke will be gone a year before the Monarchs get to Conference USA, but you have been warned. Coach Bobby Wilder likes a little grass basketball, and I figure he'll get another QB to play it.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.